To understand The Devil, we must consider its usual meanings as a force of oppression and illusion. The main illusion is that of materialism, not just money and possessions, but the view that nothing exists beyond our five senses.
A life without spirituality, only pursuing material benefits (money, power and sex etc.) leads to a narrow life. Often it leads to unhappiness, and The Devil has come to symbolise this misery.
The Devil's power comes from the illusion that nothing else exists. Look at the people in the card, they are not uncomfortable. Indeed, their chains are loose and they could easily escape. They remain because they see no alternative. People only become unhappy when they become aware that life has alternatives.
Another aspect of this card is the similarity of the imagery with The Lovers. Two people with an angel above. The Lovers deals with relationships and sexuality. In the Devil, this similar imagery further enforces the ideas of sexual obsession and oppression.
On a wider scale, The Devil symbolises life's energy locked up in a dark place, the dark areas of the inner self. That dark area is full of monsters and fears, horrors, illusions and desires. It can be scary to go there for fear of what it might release!
In readings, The Devil lets you know that you are caught in an unhealthy situation. You need to make sure you are not working from a false picture of yourself. You may be confused, trapped in a dark place, obsessed or full of self doubt. Examine your assumptions carefully.
It also represents a materialist view of live, being slave to your desires leading to feelings of shame and helplessness. The calm faces on the figures on the card show they have accepted their situation. It is all too easy to accept a bad situation as normal, as OK. You may even fight against change for the better.
Reversed, The Devil can mean a fight against such a bad situation, an attempt to break free. Paradoxically, it is this moment the unhappiness feels worst. We have to become conscious of our chains before we can let go of them.
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